Saskatchewan minister calls on federal government to support asylum seekers

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Saskatchewan minister calls on federal government to support asylum seekers
WATCH ABOVE: After a war of words with the federal government, Saskatchewan's immigration minister is calling for the feds to fully fund supports for refugees and asylum seekers. – Jul 16, 2018

After what has been described as a heated meeting between Canada’s immigration ministers, Saskatchewan is taking a stance and calling on the federal government to fully fund supports for asylum seekers and government-assisted refugees.

The move follows a dispute between Ontario’s Immigration Minister Lisa MacLeod and federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. Hussen has called Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s position on asylum seekers divisive, dangerous and not Canadian, and MacLeod demanded an apology from Hussen for saying Ontario is promoting fear about asylum seekers.

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Both Ontario and Saskatchewan refused to sign the official communique released after the meeting.

“We have urgent need for federal resources as far as job training, language training, housing supports, which are all 100 percent on provincial tax payers.” Saskatchewan Immigration Minister Jeremy Harrison said in an interview with Global News.

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While a total cost for all asylum seekers in Saskatchewan isn’t available, the Ministry of Immigration and Career Training said $15 million goes towards government-assisted Syrian refugees on a yearly basis. According to Harrison, promised funding by the federal government hasn’t been allocated yet.

“These are significant expenditures being incurred by Saskatchewan taxpayers because of policy choices and [the federal government] has been nowhere to be found in backing them up,” Harrison said.

Hussen told reporters there is $50 million set aside to help the provinces provide the necessary supports, which is expected to be rolled out at the end of the month.

“Our government has been absolutely clear: we will be there to support provinces and municipalities in the orderly management of asylum seekers. We have worked closely with Quebec and Manitoba, and we continue to work closely with the City of Toronto to ensure that we live up to our international obligations,” Press Secretary for Minister Hussen, Mathieu Genest, said in a statement.

“Last year, our government provided over $35M in funding for settlement and integration services in Saskatchewan. This funding helps newcomers settle, learn English or French, find a job and establish community connections which not only help immigrants build successful lives, but also ensure that immigration continues to benefit Canada’s economy and our diverse society.”

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According to the federal government, 1,710 Syrian refugees settled in Saskatchewan and five million dollars was allocated to help the province with the increase in refugees.

Numbers released Friday show there were 10,744 RCMP interceptions at the border between January and June 2018; there were none in Saskatchewan. Of the 25,710 asylum claimants processed by Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, only 35 were in Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Ontario MPP Lisa MacLeod slams ‘bully’ Ahmed Hussen as immigration dispute heats up

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Over at the Saskatoon Open Door Society, there is concern there will be more challenges to provide services if the governments don’t come together to provide supports to asylum seekers and refugees.

The Open Door Society’s executive director told Global News that supports are already very limited, and that asylum seekers are entitled to a fair hearing.

“We want to make sure that people are supported and given the resources that they need to be successful,” Ali Abukar said.

Abukar says he wants to see a unified approach by both levels of government to come up with a solution, and they hope the discussion goes beyond politics.

“We believe there is going to be a solution reached soon,” Abukar said. “And we hope that those differences and disagreements are not going to impact people in the communities, including organizations like us.”

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On Monday, Canada’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration held an emergency meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to discuss the influx of refugees and asylum seekers entering the country.

Further hearings are expected throughout the summer, with a request for multiple ministers to testify along with over 10 witnesses.

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